The 2022-23 National Hockey League season has begun and so does the Weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot. This is a weekly overview of what all eight teams in the division have done and what they have coming up in this coming week. Why do I do this? Simply, the division matters in the NHL. The top three positions in a division are guaranteed a playoff spot. The rest are battling for two wild card spots in the conference. Performing well within the division provides more than just bragging rights over rivals; it can make a difference for postseason positioning and even making the postseason at all. As such, it is important to be aware of what is happening in the division, good, bad, and ugly.
The regular season began on Tuesday - except for two Western Conference teams who played in Europe - so it is practically a full week as everyone in the Metropolitan has played two or three games. Therefore, this a very early look at the standings. Points in October count the same in March, but it is much easier to perform then knowing points were banked now than playing catch-up later. Here is how the division looks after Saturday’s games:
The first place team always gets the headline photo for these posts. And the summaries of each team will be in order of the standings. Tiebreakers count. In this week’s case, the major tiebreaker is goal differential. The Pittsburgh Penguins have a +8 in that regard; the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes are each at +4. Hence, they are in first. As far as the “Weeks won,” this is something I track throughout the season. If a team earned more than half of the potential points in a week, then they won the week. If they split it or earn fewer than half of the potential points, then they did not. This helps separate who has been getting points here and there and who has been consistently getting results.
Here is an overview of the schedule ahead for all eight teams. Games within the division are highlighted and in bold as those games can provide swings in the standings if decided in regulation. There are only two coming up in this week:
With that said, here is the week that was and week that will be for all eight teams.
What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins have been led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang for over 15 years now. It shall continue for it has continued to work. They began their season at home last Thursday against what is expected to be a hapless Arizona squad. With three goals scored in the first 5:10 by Crosby, Jason Zucker, and Jake Guentzel, any worries about a slow start were erased. Arizona would get on the board twice to match the first two goals - only for Pittsburgh to respond to each of those two goals. Evgeni Malkin scored a PPG to make it 4-1 going into the third period. Bryan Rust and Kasperi Kapanen added a goal each in the third period to make it a 6-2 win. Very good. Last night was a tougher test: a home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was close - until it was not. In a game loaded with shots - both teams combined for 81 total - the Penguins held onto a 2-1 lead going into the third period. Steven Stamkos scored first, Sidney Crosby tied it up, and the lone second period goal was a PPG from Danton Heinen. Then the third period happened and the Penguins blew up the Bolts. Jake Guentzel made it 3-1. Jeff Carter made it 4-1 shortly after that. After about 10 minutes of no goals, Bryan Rust scored a PPG to make it 5-1. Brayden Point scored on the next shift but it was a consolation goal at that point. Especially as Rickard Rakell made it 6-2 about two minutes after that. Beating on Arizona was expected. Beating on Tampa Bay? Well, the Penguins are still contenders until otherwise. The +8 goal differential puts them first for this week’s snapshot.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Pittsburgh will hit the road for the first time on Monday. They get a seemingly easy match up in Montreal. The Canadiens are not expected to be that strong this season. Given what the Pens did to Arizona, it could be ugly at the Bell Center on Monday night. The Penguins will return home on Thursday to host Los Angeles. The Kings were a pleasant surprise last season and certainly put up a decent fight. We shall see if the Penguins benefit from playing from home. They should try because they will be away from it after Thursday night. The Penguins will embark on a five-game road trip for the rest of the month starting with Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio. The first stop is a relatively short trip away from the Steel City. It is a divisional game and Columbus has never been really a push-over, so it may not be a pleasant trip. After that, the Penguins will head North and West, so whatever they can get this week will, at worst, mitigate what could come after this week. They are in a great place to go into this week, though.
What Happened Last Week: The Philadelphia Flyers have had an offseason that has inspired little confidence. The “aggressive retool” by GM Chuck Fletcher does not seem like one. However, the hiring of head coach John Tortorella to change the culture and re-establish the organization may prove fruitful. Prior to the home opener against New Jersey, he stressed that “wins and losses do not matter; taking care of details and following roles do and the wins will come in time.” That’s where the Flyers are at as an organization. And it paid off in their home opener. Despite getting overwhelmed in the run of play and requiring Carter Hart to be amazing (he was at times), the Flyers began their 2022-23 with a divisional win. Wade Allison put home a careless rebound from Blackwood to make it 1-1. Travis Konecny and Morgan Frost scored in back-to-back shifts to put the Devils in a deep 3-1 hole. A Konecny PPG early in the third all but sealed the game. While Severson went high and shortside on Hart, Frost got the credit for the ENG to secure a 5-2 win at home. Very good for the Orange and Black. Yesterday, they hosted Vancouver and it looked like a let down was coming. They gave up an early goal to Kyle Burroughs and a later first period goal to Conor Garland. Did the Flyers wilt? No. Carter Hart improved his performances. Special teams got the Flyers back in the second period. Anthony DeAngelo put home a PPG past the midway mark of the game and Scott Laughton put home a shorty to tie it up late in the second period. The 2-2 score held until Travis Konecny scored his third goal of the week with a little over six minutes to play. The Flyers held on to win 3-2 to sweep their week. You know what will get a team to buy into a coaching staff and strategy? Results. Tortorella got them.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The schedule will get a lot tougher for Philadelphia. They will be on the road this week and will play three playoff teams from last season. Worse, two are in a back-to-back and are really, really good teams. The Flyers are going to the Sunshine State to visit Tampa Bay on Tuesday night and Florida on Wednesday night. That is a really tough pair of games. What’s more is that they will begin another back-to-back set this Saturday when they visit Nashville. Nashville is no push-over. Knowing there is a home game on the following Sunday could be a relief, but they cannot look past the Preds. Or anyone. Tortorella, if nothing else, will not stand for such laziness. Which is partially why he was hired to begin with. It could be a tough week, but if the Flyers can claw out points from those three games, then the mood in Philly may get a little more positive. As it stands, there is a reason to at least smile going into this road trip.
What Happened Last Week: The Carolina Hurricanes took the division last season and started off well this season to retain their crown. Obviously, they will want more than just another regular season division title. But the first step is to ensure a postseason and they took some steps to get there. They had two games to open their season and won them both. Last Wednesday, they opened at home to a divisional opponent: Columbus. Despite giving up the first goal, the Canes took over with scores by Seth Jarvis, Brady Skjei, Martin Necas, and Andrei Svechnikov. The Canes won decisively 4-1, almost to say that they are back and ready to continue where they left off. Then Carolina left their home to go out West. Their schedule practically begins with a West Coast trip. It started in San Jose last Friday. The vibes of Brent Burns returning to face the Sharks were warm. The game was a duel of goalies with late period goals deciding the game. The Sharks struck first late in the first frame, Necas tied it up within the final minute of the second period, and Sebastian Aho scored with 1:58 left in regulation to make it a 2-1 win for Carolina. It was tense but the result was earned. Two games, two wins, two points, too sweet.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The West Coast trip will continue Northward before heading a little East. The Canes will visit Seattle on Monday. Should Seattle get decent goaltending, this could be a bit trickier than last season’s Kraken. On Thursday, the Hurricanes will visit Edmonton. The McDavid Effect is real, strong, and makes the Oilers competitive in most games. On Saturday, Carolina will play Alberta’s other team, Calgary. The Flames are re-vamped with a life after Matt Tkachuk and John Gaudreau; they are looking to show they are still contenders. Given Carolina’s similar aims, it should be an intriguing late night match up. It will not be easy but a winning week should only serve notice that Carolina is still a favorite to lead the Metropolitan again.
What Happened Last Week: The New York Rangers kicked off their 2022-23 campaign with a home game against Stanley Cup Finalists Tampa Bay and then a back-to-back set on the road in Minnesota and Winnipeg. It went mostly well. The Rangers’ special teams provided two of the three goals they scored against the Lightning. Igor Shesterkin only conceded one goal. The Rangers won at home 3-1 to begin their season. On Thursday, they traveled to the Wild where things went, well, wild. New York dropped three on Marc-Andre Fleury out of eight shots, all involving Artemi Panarin. The Wild managed to keep the game close in a contentious second period in that the score was just 1-1 in the middle frame. Which meant they entered the third down 4-1. The Rangers hammered Fleury some more. Panarin picked up his fourth point of the night at 4:18, setting up Vincent Trocheck for a score. While Matt Boldy responded about a minute later, Kappo Kakko scored his first of the season 30 seconds after that. Less than a minute after Kakko’s goal, Boldy would score again. Impressive by the young player but still a 6-3 game. Chris Kreider made it 7-3 right after some nonsense between Dryden Hunt and Jacob Middleton. It was a big win for the Rangers in Minnesota. Unfortunately, the good times did not continue in Manitoba. They went to Winnipeg and Connor Hellebuyck was just in form. He stopped 40 out of 41 and held a 1-0 score from the middle of the first period to the early part of the third. Hunt did break the shutout with a top-shelf shot. However, the final five minutes were the undoing of the deadlock, Jaroslav Halak, and the game. Sam Gagner, Mark Scheifele, and Kyle Connor (ENG) ran up four goals in just over four minutes to hand the Rangers a 4-1 loss. The 2021-22 season for New York was typified by winning week after week. They started this one with another one. Even if the one regulation loss kept them from first place in this first snapshot.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will return home for their next four games and just have two of them in this week coming up. They will host Anaheim on Monday night. New Jersey fans will hope that the Rangers wear out the Ducks a little. Not that they want the Rangers to win, just make the Ducks work real hard. On Thursday, the Rangers will host San Jose. The Rangers will get a chance to catch their breath before a busier week after this one. They may lose a little ground in the standings with just the two games coming up. They will make up for it later on.
What Happened Last Week: The New York Islanders began their season with something very different than their last season: home games. The Isles begin 2022-23 with four home games in a row. Given that playing a lot on the road is a challenge, it may help the Isles get their season off to a better start this time. Key word is may. On Thursday, they hosted the 2021-22 President’s Trophy winners, Florida Panthers. Paul Maurice’s debut with the Panthers went well. After a scoreless first, Eetu Luostarinen scored past midway through the second. Noah Dobson converted a power play to tie it up. Which lasted all of 30 seconds as Patric Hornqvist made it 2-1 for the visitors at that point. Matthew Tkachuk put home an ENG to secure a 3-1 loss for the Islanders. Not the home opener the Isles were hoping for to begin their 50th Anniversary. Last night, the Islanders hosted Anaheim. To say the Isles made things right would be an understatement. They just blew out the Ducks. Scott Mayfield and Noah Dobson got it started in the first period. A forward finally scored for Long Island when Oliver Wahlstrom lit the lamp early in the second. Mayfield added a second goal and Anthony Beauvillier added to the beating. Troy Terry scored to deny Ilya Sorokin a shutout. No matter. Robin Salo scored a double late in the third to make it a 7-1 win. This surely pleased the fans at Belmont and the many Islander watch parties around the globe. It also split the week and put the Isles smack in the middle of the division.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will remain at home for two of their three games coming up. They are favorable opponents on paper. They will host San Jose on Tuesday. The Sharks will begin a road trip of their own on Tuesday, but given that few expect them to compete this season, the Isles should want to make a point against them. The Isles will host the Devils on Thursday. It is a divisional match-up that both teams should want to take for themselves as they are currently in direct competition. The Isles should want to get results in those games because their first road game is on Saturday and it is a tough one. A trip to Tampa Bay on Saturday. Spoiler for next week’s snapshot, the following Sunday is against the Panthers again. That’s a tough back-to-back to begin the road schedule. Make the most of your home games now, Islanders. It does not get easier afterwards.
What Happened Last Week: Similar to Pittsburgh, the Washington Capitals are looking to still contend for more than just a playoff appearance with an aging core. The Putinist, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson have been key reasons for the Capitals continuing to rack up great seasons. This one did not start off so well, though. They opened the season at home to Boston last Wednesday. The B’s were without Brad Marchand, and it did not matter. The other two thirds of the Perfection Line struck the Caps. Patrice Bergeron scored a PPG and David Pastrnak made it 2-0 in the first period. Taylor Hall made it 3-0 in the second period before the Caps got on the board. Anthony Mantha ended the shutout shortly after Hall’s goal and Conor Sheary put Washington within one going into the third period. Linus Ullmark was too good, David Krejci beat Darcy Kuemper late in the third to make it 4-2, and Hampus Lindholm iced a 5-2 home opener loss for the Caps. Washington could not dwell on that loss for long. They had to travel up to Toronto for a game on Thursday night. This one started off better for Washington. Although John Tavares scored first, the Caps led the Leafs 2-1 with goals by Nic Dowd and Marcus Johansson. However, they could not keep the lead. Calle Jarnkrok tied it up early in the second. A re-direction by Auston Matthews made it 3-2 for Toronto - and the Caps could not respond against their former teammate Ilya Samsonov. Six shots in the third period were not enough. The Caps went back to D.C. for Saturday night to host Montreal and hopefully get their first win of the season. They would. It was auspicious to start. A scoreless first period and Nick Suzuki scoring the game’s first goal early in the second surely raised some worries. These were eased later in the second period. Conor Sheary scored to tie up the game about 9 minutes into the period. A few minutes later, Anthony Mantha broke the tie to make it 2-1. And during a power play, T.J. Oshie put home his own rebound on a rebound created by Ovechkin to make it 3-1. Yes, Ovechkin earned his first point of the season in this one. The Caps held on to win 3-1 and avoid a three-game losing streak to start the season. It was enough to avoid the very bottom of the division.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Next week, the Capitals will seek to improve their standing against three teams they may relish their chances against. They will host Vancouver on Monday night. The long trip may not do well for the Canucks. It is also unclear how good are the perfectly capped-out Canucks. Given Washington’s position, they may want to make a statement with them. Likewise in their next two games. They will visit Ottawa on Thursday and then return home to host Los Angeles. One would think that if they are going to be a playoff squad, then they should get results in those games. A 0-2-0 start is not doom. Just ask the Penguins about last season. But if it snowballs, then it will become a concern real quick.
What Happened Last Week: The New Jersey Devils faithful went into this season hoping for a better, more competitive squad. What they got in their first game on Thursday night was more of the same. Despite a heavy shot attempt and shot advantage, the Philadelphia Flyers held with them in terms of expected goals and surpassed them with actual goals. Mackenzie Blackwood struggled at points that cost the team. The defense was exposed in spots that cost the team. Despite Alexander Holtz scoring a PPG first, they conceded a rebound goal to Wade Allison on the next shift. Right after Travis Konecny bombed one from above the high slot, the Devils forgot to pick up Morgan Frost who one-timed in a goal. A Miles Wood offensive zone penalty near the end of the second led to a Konecny PPG early in the third. Damon Severson made it a two-goal game in the third, but the Devils could not finish another play against Carter Hart, they could not penetrate on offense, and a bounce off Dougie Hamilton’s stick into the empty net sealed a 5-2 opening night loss to the Flyers. It was not a better, more competitive performance. The hope was that the fans would get that in Newark against Detroit on Saturday night. The Devils absolutely attacked more and flooded Detroit with shots and more scoring chances than in their first game. What they did not get was good goaltending, good defensive plays, and good coaching - again. A Dougie Hamilton goal from distance led the Devils 1-0 going into the second period. As Alex Nedeljkovic, non-ideal finishing, and bad luck denied the Devils more goals in the second, the Red Wings got to work. Ben Chiarot from distance tied up the game. Jakub Vrana finished a 2-on-1 shortside past Vitek Vanecek to take the lead. While Miles Wood put home a goal on the next shift, it would be the Red Wings to strike again when David Perron put home a gift to make it 3-1. With less than a second in the period, Dylan Larkin roofed a shot past Vanecek. It went in with 0.8 seconds left so the Devils conceded four goals in the second period despite more than doubling up the Red Wings in shots. The third period began with “Fire Lindy” chants. The Devils could not claw back into this game, another miscue by the Devils yielded a goal to Dominik Kubalik, and a chorus of disapproval repeated throughout the third period. The Devils lost their home opener 5-2 with much of the same issues from their first loss. And the many losses in 2021-22. And the many losses in 2021. And the many losses in 2019-20. And so forth.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will have three games against teams they should want to get results against if they want to prove that 2022-23 will be better than 2021-22 (and 2021 and 2019-20 and...). They will host Anaheim on Tuesday night. That same Anaheim time will have played in Manhattan the night before, so the Devils will have a potential fatigue advantage. On Thursday, the Devils will travel to Long Island to play the Islanders. Recent trips out there have not gone well for the Devils. Coming back from Belmont with points will be a positive sign to takeaway. On Saturday afternoon, the Devils will host San Jose, who will be at the end of their road trip to this area. It is another chance for the Devils to take advantage. Especially as the schedule gets harder after this week coming up. Many want to believe the Devils will be better this season. Now is the time to prove it. Patience is in short supply among the People Who Matter. The Devils should really make a point of it on Tuesday night.
What Happened Last Week: The Columbus Blue Jackets made waves by signing Johnny Gaudreau and retaining Patrik Laine. Would their offense just be All of the Goals? Not quite right away. They began their season in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes kept the Jackets quiet. Laine would score 11 seconds into the second period. His goal would be the only one to deny Carolina a shutout. He did not even finish the game; he left the game with an injury that will keep him out for some time. Gaudreau and the other Jackets not named Laine or Zach Werenski were held pointless in the 4-1 loss. On Friday night, the Jackets had their home opener against Tampa Bay. Gaudreau scored 2:21 into the game and many were pleased. Then the goals flowed later that ultimately went against Columbus. Corey Perry scored a PPG and Steven Stamkos scored within 90 seconds of each other. Gustav Nyquist scored right after Stamkos’ goal to tie it up. However, Ross Colton broke the tie with 1:05 left in the first. Tampa Bay would just extend the lead from then on with goals by Cal Foote and Stamkos. The Blue Jackets suffered a 5-2 defeat in their home opener. Last night, the Blue Jackets were playing in St. Louis against the Blues. Not an easy opponent to follow-up after Tampa Bay, much less after a 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay. It certainly was not as the Blues scored on 20% of their shots. They just took 25 at Elvis Merzlikins. Pavel Buchnevich scored a PPG to start the scoring. A 2:40 time period to start the second period did have Columbus get back in the game. While Vladimir Tarasenko made it 2-0 at 1:04, Nyquist and Sean Kuraly scored on back-to-back shifts to make it 2-2 by 2:40 of the period. The score stood until Ivan Barbashev broke the tie past the halfway mark of the third period. Jake Neighbours extended the lead 20 seconds later. Taransenko beat Merzlikins a second time late in the third to make it another 5-2 loss for the Blue Jackets. With three losses to the Devils’ two, they are in last place at the moment. Not what the Cannon faithful expected with their big offseason.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Columbus will be at home all week in an effort to pick up from their not-so-good first week of the season. They will host Vancouver on Tuesday. Blue Jackets fans should hope Washington gives them a tough time the night before to increase the fatigue advantage Columbus will have schedule-wise on Vancouver. On Thursday, Columbus will host Nashville in what could be a tricky opponent as the Preds are both well-traveled this season and expected to do well. On Saturday, Columbus will begin a back-to-back set within the division in hosting Pittsburgh. That will be a tough game for sure. Getting some results before then would be crucial to avoid needing something in that one. The Blue Jackets will have to do some climbing sooner rather than later, but it is at least a shallow climb. For now.
That was the first Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2022-23 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will Pittsburgh stay on top? What surprises you more, Philly winning their first two games or Columbus dropping all three of their games? Will the Islanders go into their road trip with good feelings? Will Carolina keep the good times rolling out West? Will the Devils win a game next week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the eight teams in the week that was and the week ahead in the comments. Thank you for reading.